Pfizer pushes 'people culture'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2007, 12:00am

The international pharmaceutical giant goes out of its way to make sure that employees feel valued

AS BUSINESSES remain focused on measurable success and financial performance, they can easily overlook the needs and concerns of the people who make it all happen.

Individual employees can start to feel like a cog in the machine, alienated from executive decisions and, in extreme cases, increasingly cynical in their outlook.

In contrast, companies that put their staff first and make it a policy to treat them as a critical resource not only hit business targets, but reap other rewards.

'I believe in people,' said Stephen Leung Kwok-keung, country manager for Pfizer Corporation, Hong Kong, whose vision is to transform the local offices of the international pharmaceutical giant into a centre of 'people culture'.

'My passion is helping people grow and learn,' he said.

With the assistance of human resources director Polly Cho Suk-yan, Mr Leung established an initiative called 'Care culture'.

The acronym stands for communication, aspiration, recognition and reward and empowerment.

Its aim is to localise and personalise international company directives and create a corporate culture with which everyone can identify.

The firm's aim made the company a winner at the HKIHRM/SCMP People Management Awards last year.

'The key is to know how to think globally and then act locally,' Ms Cho said.

The programme sets goals for staff and is based on core practices which encourage employees to voice their concerns, present ideas and share experiences.

'Staff want to be heard,' said Mr Leung.

All employees are invited to attend a weekly meeting that provides updates about the business, deals with housekeeping issues, introduces new colleagues and passes on good news about weddings or births.

The meeting keeps staff informed about the organisation and gives them a chance to share their news and ideas.

'We value our colleagues' input because this is their company,' Ms Cho said.

Employees can also present suggestions or 'wishes' to senior management. If their ideas are given the green light, they are acted on immediately.

Ms Cho has set up several committees to help integrate staff from different areas of the company and encourage inter-departmental communication.

Each committee has a clear objective that is either work-related or aimed at promoting social activities. 'We assign staff to the teams to achieve our objective of mixing people together,' Ms Cho said.

'These teams are a platform for staff to interact and work with each other. They facilitate co-operation, teach respect and show good leadership practices.'

To support employees and give them every chance to achieve their career aspirations, Ms Cho has set up a company library and encourages staff to learn not just about their specialist fields, but also about different areas of the business.

The idea is to create a 'Pfizer university', where staff can read anything from Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie to acquire new business perspectives and a broader personal outlook.

Credits gained for reading can be converted into book vouchers or even further education courses.

At the weekly meetings, staff have the opportunity to share what they have learned with their colleagues.

Noting that recognition is an important factor in making employees feel valued, the company pays extra attention to this.

'People want to be recognised by their peers and colleagues,' said Ms Cho.

'We believe in internal promotion; almost 95 per cent of our management team was promoted from within.'

With these initiatives, the company is looking to create a culture of mutual trust.

'Building trust is difficult,' Mr Leung said, while acknowledging that it was also the cornerstone of success.

However, he said he believed that with sufficient effort from senior executives and the HR team, staff would have a belief in the company and would want to be part of its future success.

'It's a long-term goal,' Mr Leung said.

'I call it emotional banking for the future.'

People power

Staff need to know that they are valued.

Employees must be encouraged to share their ideas and concerns.

Management need to make listening to staff part of the corporate culture.

It is important to establish mutual trust and respect between colleagues.

Never forget that people are the company.